(New Castle, DE 19720) In 2016, the New Castle County Division of Police launched an innovative program called Hero Help.  This program reached beyond certain criminal arrests in order to combat addiction and related crimes.  If the participant fails to abide by the program agreement, then the original officer will move forward with an arrest warrant and allow the case to go through the traditional criminal justice path.

The benefit of the treatment in lieu of arrest is that the “criminal charge” is never sought therefore it never shows up on their criminal history.

Prior to 2018 the Hero Help program was funded and run by the Division of Police.  In 2018, this program received funding through a grant from the Center for Drug Policy and Enforcement, out of the University of Baltimore for the amount of $118,628.

The University of Baltimore grant funded the Hero Help program for a 12-month period and allowed us to hire a civilian coordinator.  We also learned that our program was proving successful but had room for expansion.

When this grant expired in 2019, it became apparent that our efforts required further funding to continue assisting those in need of an avenue towards substance abuse treatment.

Simultaneously in 2018, the Division was awarded an additional grant from the Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Assistance) for the creation of a mental health Program.   This program pairs a trained clinician with an officer in the field to respond to persons in a mental health crisis and divert them from the criminal justice system or the E.R.

All the while, getting them the treatment that they need; as well as providing a resource for them & their families.

The Hero Help Program and the Mental Health Program were then able to obtain additional funds from the New Castle County Council, State of Delaware budget appropriation sponsored by Representative Longhurst, the Criminal Justice Council, the Liberty Mid-Atlantic High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).  Totaling $253,336

In the first two years of the Hero Help Program, we had 70 individuals enter the program seeking treatment.  In the year and a half after hiring the full-time coordinator, we saw individuals entering the program increase to over 350. Further proving the benefit of dedicating full-time resources to this epidemic.

In its inaugural year, the Mental Health Alliance assessed 649 individuals from incarceration and made 311 referrals for additional services.  Because of these statistics, the Division was able to compete nationally for several grants. Earlier this month, the department was awarded a grant from the Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Assistance), Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program: Treatment Improvement Project for $1,198,919 and the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program awarded the Division $744,406.  The Criminal Justice Council Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-Based Program: Treatment Improvement Project awarded us $98,390 -totaling $2,041,715

Based on the success of the Hero Help program and the Mental Health car, the New Castle County Division of Police merged these two units into the newly formed Behavioral Health Unit.

The Behavioral Health Unit will be an innovative multi-disciplinary approach that will assist community members who are dealing with mental health concerns or substance use disorders.

By combining police resources and data with members of the medical and social service fields.

“These highly competitive grants and the establishment of the addiction and behavioral health unit will enable us to dramatically impact the hundreds of police encounters across this county in a positive way,” said County Executive Meyer. “It’s a critical step forward for our County and the residents and I look forward to the work of the new unit.”

New Castle County Police Chief, Colonel Vaughn M. Bond, Jr. offered, “We do this because we care. As police officers, we see first hand how addiction and untreated mental illness can destroy individuals as well as their families.”

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear said, “As the addiction epidemic in Delaware persists, it is important that we add new tools to the fight against this crisis and meet the needs of our communities. New Castle County Police’s new behavioral health unit does just this. Our brave first responders are usually the first to interact with those in our community struggling with mental health or addiction, and we know that connecting people to services and intervention is so important. By embedding medical and social services professionals within first responder teams they will be better equipped to help Delawareans in crisis immediately. I am encouraged by this new unit and look forward to seeing more innovative partnerships and creative solutions to combat this crisis.”

Dr. Joshua Thomas, the CEO for NAMI Delaware stated, “I hope other law enforcement and criminal justice leaders are taking note of what is happening here in New Castle County and will follow the lead of being part of the community solution to address mental health and addiction crises in our community.”

 Dave Humes from AtTAcK Addiction stated, “Since almost the inception of the Opioid Public Health Crisis, New Castle County Police has provided progressive leadership in changing the perception of individuals with Opioid Use Disorder, people with a disease. They started by changing the hearts and minds internally. They moved from “lock them up” to “help them up”. New Castle County PD has been initiating innovative programs that have shown proven, measurable results. The “Behavioral Health Unit” is just the latest program to help people in our community that are in need of a helping hand up. First, save life. Where there is life, there is hope.”